I predict a riot

Source:Global Times Published: 2010-10-19 9:02:00

Photo: Courtesy of Matteo Lanetta

By Matthew Jukes

The mosh pit is just starting to get going, but it's not your standard mosh pit. A bevy of scantily-clad young ladies are hopping up and down excitedly, pausing only momentarily to try to rearrange their clothing which had come askew in the melee. On stage, the lead singer gears up: "This song is called 'Fish Supper,' and it's kind of disgusting, it's about…" Thankfully he never finishes the sentence; the bassist, in his hurry to dive for the toilets, knocks over his guitar and several empty whisky bottles causing a blast of sound as he falls off stage in tight plastic trousers.

This is an average night for Smegma Riot, a band with a sound reminiscent of the Ramones or the Dead Kennedys, but with the accent of The Godfather and the hair of Borat. If you believe everything the band says, the Illuminati and Knights Templar were mere amateurs compared to the influence Smegma Riot has had on the modern world. They were there to provide Johnny Cash with his first amphetamines, made Dylan go electric and taught The Wailers how to roll their first joint. (Don't look at me; I'm just reporting the legend).

Behind the myth and the legend, the band came together in Yunnan Province in 2004, where the kids were mostly listening to metal, and two young Italian guys decided on two things. One: they couldn't get a job in Italy. And two: they could make music. Often finishing each other's sentences, Eddy Di Natale and Lucio Cascavilla, the Lennon and McCartney of Smegma Riot wanted to tell the inside story. But first things first. "Can we say hello to our mums?" ask the band. Hello Mums.

Rock stars

"We thought maybe we could become rock stars," says Cascavilla. "Have you ever heard of the band CCCP? They're an Italian punk band, and we thought nobody had ever heard of them, so maybe we could use their songs and people would think they were ours."

Unsurprisingly, it paid off. Not long after Smegma Riot started performing, they were playing to a crowd of 50,000 and had made their first TV performance.

"We were once asked to play in a city called Jinggu [the home of Pu'er tea]. The city tourism bureau organized this really big event to promote tourism. They invited us as a band to play at this football stadium crowded with 50,000 people," says Di Natale. "It was then we decided we could do something serious."

The band also made it onto Yunnan TV, to be seen by most of the population of the province, and were awarded the equivalent of the "Yunnan Grammys." Although it all sounds like fun and games, the band have stayed true to some of the aspects that make punk great, an aptitude for politics, not taking yourself seriously, and living a lifestyle of rock'n'roll.

On any given set list, alongside songs like "Fish Supper," and a cover of "Fiki Fiki" (an old Italian love song rejuvenated) they're also playing anti-fascist anthems, popular among many young Italians. They've even translated "Bella Ciao" ("The Beautiful Goodbye"), the song of the Italian partisans, into Chinese. At their Beijing gig, the band's sentiments run so strong, that one overweight drunken Mussolini supporter at the back of the room starts crying out in protest. That doesn't stop the band from remembering what's really important.

"We want to have girls falling in love with us," says Cascavilla. "Actually no one has conquered a girl after a show now," adds Di Natale. "Now we are free as the Backstreet Boys." I'm not sure if they know that two of the Backstreet Boys are now married.


General vulgarity

Never apart from the antics of the leading stallions is the small army that have pledged their allegiance to Smegma Riot. Quiet, probably because of a raucous night before, Andy Mignano, the band's American drummer with a conveniently Italian name, was taking life easy in Kunming before he met them. As Smegma Riot explains, everyone was lost before they found the band.

"I don't work any more. I just eat rice noodles every day," says Mignano. He does occasionally busk though, joined by a cross-dressing beggar in Yunnan. He's come on leaps and bounds since joining the band. "I can actually understand some of what these guys are saying now; it's getting easier to guess what they're saying when they talk - just the general vulgarity mostly," he adds. "He didn't understand what we wanted at first thanks to his crappy English," chimes Cascavilla.

Without explanation, I'm also introduced to Nick Simon frequently referred to as simply, "the socialist." The socialist met them and now writes songs. "I write them and they correct them back into Italian-English," he says. "I can understand some of what these guys say."

"That's the first compliment we've had about our English, it's definitely improved," adds Di Natale.

Taking care of recording the sounds of genius is German Stefan Kroeken who runs a sound studio in Kunming, and produced the band's album Smegma Ergo Sum. Not present due to genuine illness (non-alcohol related, claims the band) are bassist, and guitarists Pasquale Artuso, Pippo Constantini and Carlitto Mazzoni. As they're about to head off, there's a lot of confusion about who is actually sleeping with who and on what sofa bed/floor. The band relies on the utterly devoted group of followers they've acquired over the years to give them a place to sleep, and a bottle to drink from.

No hotels are booked; they've got friends in every city around China, the perfect (although cramped) room and board for the night. People always know when the socialists are coming to drink them out of house and home and crash on their floor, always sympathetic to the cause. "We're socialist because we don't want to work," adds Cascavilla.

Coming soon is the release date for the Smegma Riot documentary. Although the Sex Pistols may be gone, the Ramones may be dead, Smegma Riot are just getting into their stride, and they know it. They've got a sound that can blow the minds of audiences in China and it's just a matter of time before the rest of the world succumbs. Always taking it seriously the band add: "It's punk with Italian characteristics. Our songs speak about love, sex, peace, and fart jokes…oh and against fascism."

Smegma Riot tour China regularly. For more information check out: www.smegmariot.org


Posted in: Profile

blog comments powered by Disqus